Urban agriculture is exactly what it sounds like – the practice of farming in non-rural areas such as towns, villages, and even within large cities. But how does one plant crops without traditional acreage? Through raised-bed vegetable plots, roof gardens, and other urban-friendly planting mediums, sustainable food and healthy living can become integral parts of daily life even miles away from open land and fertile soil. In today’s era, wide-scale traditional farming is simply unrealistic for many citizens. Urban agriculture allows all beings, even those who live in urban and suburban areas, to participate in gardening and food production.
Setting up an urban farm can be as complex as planting crops across the entire rooftop of a large apartment building or as simple as creating a small garden on a patio. Organizations like the Urban Farm Company of Colorado help set-up gardens, educate and assist laypersons interested in growing their own food, and provide support and community for urban farmers. Bryant Mason, the company’s founder, explains how gardening is an eco-friendly practice. “The average calorie on your plate travels approximately 1,500 hundred miles. It uses a lot of fuel to transport, fertilize, and produce food, not to mention pesticide and chemical output. With gardening, you grow your own food and practically have no carbon footprint.”
In addition to being environmentally sustainable, gardening addresses economic and social needs. Many areas of The United States experience food insecurity, limited access to fresh produce, and financial distress that makes nutritionally rich foods virtually unaffordable. In fact, according to the USDA, 48.8 million people lived in food-insecure households in 2010, an average of 14.5% of the population of the United States. Urban farms and micro-gardens address these issues by providing relatively inexpensive access to an abundance of healthy food. Personal produce production also increases fruit and vegetable consumption and significantly reduces the risk of various leading health problems. “Food is an underlying issue that affects obesity, diabetes, economic development, environmental sustainability – you name it,” says Bryant. Urban farms address each of these needs. Interacting with nature even increases self-esteem, mood, and happiness.”
Beyond the visible perks of increased food availability and recreational gardening opportunities, urban agriculture provides environmental and societal benefits that extend far beyond the limited reach of the garden itself.
-Reduce carbon footprint
-Save water, energy, soil, and land
-Maintain genetic diversity
-Eliminate chemical use and run-off
-No ingestion of pesticides and chemical carcinogens
-Increase in freshness, flavor, and nutritional value of food
- Financial benefit: while the initial set-up of an individual urban farm can seem costly and time-consuming, the investment provides vast returns in the form of financial savings. It is much cheaper to grow and harvest your own backyard food than to continuously purchase it from the grocery store.
Between increased personal health and savings, environmental sustainability, and positive contributions to larger societal institutions, what’s not to love about urban agriculture? It seems that practicality can be a leading barrier for many would-be urban farmers. Folks with some extra cash can hire groups like the Urban Farm Company to provide materials, set-up, and guidance, as well as ongoing assistance. Those of us with limited resources can use manuals and free online resources to farm on our own, and even people with little interest or ability to garden can switch to healthier and more eco-friendly foodpurchasing habits like shopping at farmer’s markets and going in on gardens with neighbors and friends. According to Bryant, “gardening doesn’t take as much time and energy as people think if done right and well”. To contact the Urban Farm Company of Colorado and learn more about urban farming, visit their website and Facebook page. If your home is located outside of the northern Colorado area, consider finding a local organization or accessing courses and online consultations to personalize your crops to your region. Happy gardening!